How to Use Your Propane Grill as a Smoker

A smoker box can be used to bring smoky taste to meats and vegetables even when cooking with propane.

Selecting a propane grill over charcoal has its advantages. Propane is clean, convenient and easy to use at a moment’s notice. Charcoal purists complain that food cooked over propane lacks the smoky complexity that comes from grilling over hardwood. During the summer, I use my propane grill nearly every day and I don’t regret my choice, but there are times when I might miss charcoal. A little.

The clean heat from propane does just fine all by itself most of the time. A burger is a burger, hot dogs probably don’t need nuance and a good steak speaks for itself (many of the world’s great steakhouses swear by propane grilling).

But then there’s ribs. Pork shoulder. Brisket. Good stuff made better by cooking over hardwoods that add dense, smoky, enveloping flavor a propane grill doesn’t usually provide.

Whether you’re looking for the bite of mesquite beef brisket, applewood pork loin or maple smoked turkey, your propane grill will get the job done. Easy to use, easy to clean, inexpensive and I can use it as a smoker? I think I might be done apologizing. Propane, baby!


Step 1

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Just about any propane grill can be turned into an ad hoc smoker without breaking the bank.

Step 2

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Remove the grate on one side of your grill. Examine the shield that covers the burner and make sure it is firmly anchored and secure.

Step 3

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Many hardwoods can be used to add flavor when grilling. Among the most popular are mesquite, hickory and various hardwood trees. Hardwood chunks for smoking meat can be harvested by hand or purchased at stores where grill supplies are available. Before grilling, soak 2 cups of wood chips in water for 30 minutes or longer to ensure the wood will smolder well in the heat of the grill.

Step 4

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A smoker box is a metal container with holes in the lid to allow air to circulate and smoke to escape when adding smoke to your grilling experience. A smoker box costs just a few dollars, but the same result can be achieved by wrapping wood chips loosely in aluminum foil and poking 10-12 holes in the pouch to provide airflow.

Step 5

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Place damp wood chips in the smoker box. At optimal temperature, 2 cups or wood chips will last about 90 minutes. If smoking roasts, loins or other large pieces of meat, it may be necessary to add more wood chips before cooking is complete.

Step 6

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Place smoker box on the exposed burner shield, making sure it rests firmly in the space.

Step 7

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Replace grate to further secure smoker box and turn on only the burner on which the smoker box is resting. Only one burner will be used when smoking. Leave burner on high until wood chips begin to smoke.

Step 8

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Once wood begins to smoke, turn burner to low and place meat as far away from the active burner as possible.

Low and slow is the name of the game, but for larger pieces of meat, the relatively dry heat of propane cooking can be a disadvantage. To add moisture to the cooking process, a pie tin full of water can be set on the grate while cooking.

Step 9

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Keep lid closed to capture smoke and adjust the burner as needed to establish a cooking temperature between 225 and 250 degrees.

Step 10

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Different meats have different cook times, but the most reliable way to determine when its done is by temperature. Beef, pork, poultry and fish are all great choices for smoking. Use a thermometer to determine when dinner is ready and be sure to stick to the USDA’s safe cooking temperature recommendations.

Step 11

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If the smoke fades before the meat has finished cooking, carefully open the smoker box to confirm the wood is spent. If so, add 2 cups of damp wood chips to the box and return to the burner.

Step 12

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Diehard charcoal fans will tell you propane doesn’t compare, but the undeniable ease of propane grilling makes it hard to ignore. If you’ve embraced propane, but miss the depth of flavor that comes from charcoal, a smoker box brings the rich, complex taste of hardwoods back to grilled meats and vegetables without sacrificing the convenience of a grill that’s ready to go at the touch of a button.


  • 2 cups hardwood chips.
  • Smoker box or aluminum foil.
  • Pie tin (optional)


  • Propane grill
  • Thermometer
About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

More About Mick Telkamp

3 Responses

  1. hguhf 250 says:

    your post so great, please keep going and i'm wait to see another post

  2. John says:

    They should say gas grill, as I have been doing this with my Weber natural gas grill for years…

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